United Nations, June 5: Amidst the triple environmental threats of biodiversity loss, climate disruption and escalating pollution, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched "an unprecedented effort to heal the Earth".
Kicking off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the UN chief said on Friday that the planet was rapidly reaching a "point of no return", cutting down forests, polluting rivers and oceans, and ploughing grasslands "into oblivion", reports Xinhua news agency
"We are ravaging the very ecosystems that underpin our societies," he warned.
"Our degradation of the natural world is destroying the very food, water and resources needed to survive, and already undermining the well-being of 3.2 billion people -- or 40 per cent of humanity."
But fortunately, the Earth is resilient and "we still have time to reverse the damage we have done", he added.
By restoring ecosystems, Guterres said that "we can drive a transformation that will contribute to the achievement of all the Sustainable Development Goals".
"Accomplishing these things will not only safeguard the planet's resources. It will create millions of new jobs by 2030, generate returns of over $7 trillion every year and help eliminate poverty and hunger."
He pointed out that the next 10 years are "our final chance to avert a climate catastrophe, turn back the deadly tide of pollution and end species loss".
Meanwhile, UN independent human rights experts have called on the UN to formally recognise that living in a safe, healthy and sustainable environment is "indeed a human right".
Guteress' remarks came on the eve of World Environment Day marked annually on June 5 for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of the environment.
First marked in 1974, it has been a platform for raising awareness on environmental issue such as marine pollution, human overpopulation, global warming, sustainable consumption and wildlife crime.